A couple of readers have left pointed comments about the bicycle share scheme that is being mooted in Penang.

Reader Soo Huey wrote in to say:

Anil, please pass this comment to Penang Forum core group too. I agree 100 per cent with Ken.

For your information, I believe this bicycle share proposal was initiated and lobbied by representatives from NGO. I was called for a meeting by Ir Lim Thean Heng together with Jonathan and Councillor Michael Lim Mah Hui where a bike share concept with hubs throughout GT area and Komtar was proposed.

My immediate reaction was that the basic infra is so poor and most people’s feedback that cycling is too dangerous, so money is better spent to plan, design and improve our street infra to make it safer for cyclists first! I rather we spend more on getting these things right before jumping the gun to have fancy bike share facilities.

However, Councillor Lim was very taken by the idea and enthusiastically supportive of having bicycle share facilities sponsored by MPPP, saying he would happily give from his allocation and will lobby council and other councillors.

In Pulau Tikus I’m desperately fighting for better city planning and infra and getting the fundamentals right. We should not be so obsessed with cycling that we get the order of priorities and practicalities wrong.

I wish some NGO reps can be more down to earth.

Another reader, Lim Mah Hui, has responded:

I wish YB Yap would get her facts right before jumping the gun to accuse me (the NGO representative) of not being down to earth.

For the record, while I heartily support the bicycle share system as I believe bicycling as one important component of a sustainable transport system (see my speech in full council meeting on 25 October 25, 2013), I am not pushing for its full-speed implementation without deliberate consideration and planning.

The meeting that YB Yap referred to where she was invited was not initiated by me or any NGO. Like her, I was invited to the meeting without any prior knowledge. Unlike her, I do believe the bicycle share system is a worthwhile project to support and has been shown to be universally accepted. (See 3 January 2014 article in FMT on ‘Will 2014 be year of the bike?’)

Having said that, I was very much taken by surprise when the Council announced in November it was calling for a Request For Proposals for the bicycle share project. In fact, I argued with the authorities concerned that we should proceed with deliberate speed, learn from the successes and failures of other cities that have implemented such systems, plan the project properly, and do it right rather than quick. I was against rushing into the project but was over-ruled.

Secondly, I have always advocated that we need to have dedicated bicycle lanes to make it safe for people to cycle. (I was swiped by a car a few months ago but fortunately escaped unhurt.) The present system of painting bicycle symbols on public roads is sorely inadequate. I call these suicide lanes, not bicycle lanes. However the engineers in the Council argue they would like to see more cyclists on the road to warrant provision of dedicated lanes. My counter argument is unless you provide safe dedicated bike lanes people won’t cycle. A survey conducted by Anil Netto in his blog asked if people would cycle if provided with safe dedicated lanes; 80 per cent answered positively.

If YB Yap is supportive of making it safe for people to cycle, I would like to know why she stated in a public forum on sustainable transportation late last year she was against having dedicated bicycles lanes in her constituency? Can she please explain what infrastructure she has in mind to make it safe for people to cycle? While it is a chicken-and-egg conundrum, I believe the two should go together, i.e., start with some dedicated lanes in key areas while also implementing the bike share system in incremental stages.

Finally, I would appreciate if YB Yap keeps her disagreement with me at a policy level and not make condescending personal remarks that are not helpful.

What do you folks think about the issue? Should the new one way streets (Burma Road and Kelawei Road) have dedicated bicycle lanes?